The key to a long life in music business - Song Sommelier Keith Jopling takes tips from famous faces

If you’re Slade and have a Christmas number one (or better still, your father does, like Hugh Grant’s character in ‘About A Boy’), your musical legacy is pretty much guaranteed.

But for the typical musician, longevity is the aim, although financially at least that’s rather harder nowadays thanks to the advent of streaming.

Instead, live shows (and the chance to sell merchandise) are often a more likely source of finance – and it’s fair to say that not every reformed act has done so due to missing their old bandmates.

Keith Jopling is someone who knows this area of the music business, having worked as a consultant in the industry for nearly 20 years – as he puts it, on the “spreadsheets and charts” side. However, he has been able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by working in this less glamorous area of showbiz.

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    Jopling already runs a website full of musings on the subject - songsommelier.com, so named because “music isn’t water but fine wine” – aided by Eric Karsenty, and Mick Clarke, the latter responsible for the guest portraits.

    And he has decided to share his insider knowledge on his podcast series, The Art of Longevity, which lets listeners get closer to the musicians in a series of informal chats about their extended careers.

    The theme is inspired in part by Björn Ulvaeus, who once said: “I don’t think ABBA would have made it today” – quite a reflection on the changing world of music.

    Sadly Björn was not committed to tape, but there are plenty of similar world-conquering superstars featured.

    None more so than Chic’s Nile Rodgers (left), who explains how during lockdown he wrote 100 songs – himself inspired by Ennio Morricone, whose simple advice was to “write every day”.

    Each podcast episode touches on a different area of music, offering useful tips for any aspiring artist tuning in. Los Lobos realised ‘La Bamba’ was a one-off, almost ‘novelty’ hit. So instead of trying to replicate the song they went back to their Mexican roots for the follow-up – a Mariachi album.

    In the case of KT Tunstall the lesson learned was “stick to your guns” – after the success of her debut album, the Scottish singer-songwriter began to feel the pressure from her label to “make another one of those”.

    Of course, these episodes act as mini-TED Talks for aspiring musicians, but for your casual music fan, they’re just a great listen. These are celebrity interviews, ranging from more cult heroes up to the likes of electronic pioneer Gary Numan, critical choices Portico Quartet, andMercury winners Alt-J.

    After all, you can’t chat to Nile Rodgers without hearing about a few famous names, given that the Chic frontman has worked with the likes of Sister Sledge, David Bowie, DaftPunk, Lady Gaga, and he even touches on Debbie Harry’s less successful solo career. Overall, that’s a estimated total of over 18,000 songs. Little wonder that the phrase “work ethic” is used here.

    Something that Keith Jopling, with more than 150 hours of podcasts already recorded, will know about. Long may he continue.

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